LAX lacks many things it seems

If you frequently travel to international destinations from Los Angeles, it might not surprise you to learn that LAX is not considered one of the world’s best airports. It doesn’t even rank in the world’s top 50. In fact, it doesn’t even rank in the top 100.

However, this came as a surprise to President Obama, who recently remarked that no US airport ranked among the world’s top 25.

“There was a recent survey of the top airports…in the world, and there was not a single US airport that came in the top 25. Not one US airport was considered by the experts and consumers who use these airports to be in the top 25 in the world,” he said.

“I think Cincinnati airport came in around 30th. What does that say about our long-term competitiveness and future?”

Obama was referring to a ranking released last month — the Skytrax World Airport Awards, generally regarded as the industry’s most accurate benchmark and based on a survey of over 12 million travellers around the world. Out of 395 airports worldwide, LAX ranked 109th. It came in at 24th among 50 airports in North America.

Travel & Leisure Magazine rated LAX the nation’s second-worst airport last year, citing below-standard staff communication, terminal cleanliness, check-in and screening process and baggage handling.

Seating at the airport is limited, security staff are rude, signage is poor, bathrooms are in poor condition and travel between terminals is difficult and confusing.

The popular Guide to Sleeping in Airports website ranks airports around the world based on traveller’s experiences and currently rates LAX among the world’s 10 worst and the worst in North America.

image from

It seems this sign is saying more than simply the name of the airport

This bad experience is not just limited to departures or stopovers. Poor services and rudeness abound on arrival too. According to Peter Miller, a spokesman for the Skytrax research group, passengers surveyed gave LAX low scores for the long time it takes to get through security and immigration and customs.

One frequent visitor to Los Angeles from London told Travel Snitch, “Every time to come to LA I’m excited, even if it’s just a work trip, but my bubble always bursts as soon as I get to Immigration.

“[Customs] is many people’s first impression of the US. Two-hour queues are not uncommon and once, I accidently stepped over the yellow line as I was deep in conversation. Within seconds security came down on me like I was the CIA’s Most Wanted.”

In 2011, LAX was the sixth busiest airport in the world and it is also the only airport to rank among the top five in the US for both passenger and cargo traffic.

The terminal complex was originally built in 1961 and is at a disadvantage when compared to newer, more modern, privately funded airports in Asia and the Middle East, according to Cheryl Marcell, a spokeswoman for Airports Council International, a non profit global trade organization of the world’s airports.

LAX could climb the ranking by improving its signage, cleanliness, ambiance and connections to mass transit, Marcell said. “International travelers really value having that direct connection with rail or bus service,” she added.

The $1.5 billion Bradley West extension, part of the multi-year $4.11 billion LAX improvement and redevelopment projects, will be completed next year and the Los Angeles City Council last week approved $4.76 billion in improvements to LAX passenger facilities and a transportation center, together with light rail links, new parking areas and a consolidated car rental facility.

Scott Snowden

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